Highlights in 2019
High impact innovation activity triggered by MI
Mission Innovation has:
- allowed the development of new Bilateral agreements of Scientific and Technological Cooperation among international public research centers (i.e. Italy/India Cooperation agreement on Joint application for Strategic key programme for international scientific technological cooperation– RSE – Roorkee);
- facilitated the interaction among the National Research Centres involved in the development of cleantech technologies;
- favoured the synergy among the various Ministries involved in the research activities’ support;
- given substance and resources to the Italian R&I activities planned under the 5th Dimension (R&I&C) of the National Plan for Energy and Climate (NPEC), together with the participation in the EU – Strategic Energy Technology – SET Plan in the frame of the European New Green Deal which foresees a strong effort on clean energy innovation activities;
- focused the attention of all stakeholders in Italy on the opportunities that hydrogen can offer as an energy carrier. To this end the Ministry of Economic Development set up The Hydrogen Table gathering the main national stakeholders in the value chain to encourage the development of hydrogen-related projects and allow Italian companies and research organisations to actively participate in the activities of IC8.
Impact of your national clean energy innovation activity
Italy’s clean energy innovation activities are closely coordinated with the European Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET Plan) in the perspective of the full implementation of the New Green Deal at European level. The conception of the Mission Innovation Challenges largely follows the SET Plan methodology and the synergies between the two exercises are significant. Italy from the launch of MI has therefore always considered it necessary to have an organic and integrated research management in the energy sector, both of the SET Plan and MI, in order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the resources allocated.
In the context of the definition of the National Energy and Climate Plan, Italy has taken the opportunity to define a long-term strategy (at least until 2030 with a perspective to 2050) that indicates objectives, priorities and measures to achieve the targets identified. The aim is to create the system conditions so that the participation of industries and public and private R&D centers in future research programs envisaged both in the SET Plan and in Mission Innovation is broader and less fragmented, and achieve a greater success than has happened in the past.
Update on clean energy innovation policies and strategies
The Italian Government published the official version of the National Energy and Climate Plan in 31/12/2019 (NECP), and sent it to the European Commission according to the Governance of the Energy Union and Climate Action. The Plan sets out measures to ensure the creation of a secure, sustainable and competitive energy system in order to achieve sustainable growth, promote fundamental role of research and innovation in the cleantech sector and reach the 2030 environmental targets at European level. The targets for RES are very significant and assume to cover more than 55% of the demand in the electricity field, 33% of the demand in the thermal sector and more than 21% in the transport sector, for an overall target of 30% of the gross energy consumption.
One of the five dimensions of the NECP proposal is represented by the research, innovation and competitiveness’s pillar. The dimension includes and refers to the national participation to Mission Innovation which is committed to double public funds for R&D for clean energy from €222 million in 2013 to €444 million in 2021.
Major innovation initiatives and programmes in 2019/20
- In June 2019, the Italian Ministry of Economic Development set up The Hydrogen Table gathering the main national industrial players in the value chain to encourage the development of hydrogen-related projects. 35 companies and research bodies participated to the kick-off meeting. This initiative aims to define the priorities, the guidelines and to make a competitiveness assessment on the Italian hydrogen sector and to promote the development of hydrogen-related projects that can have positive impacts from the technological, economic and social point of views. In 2020 other important companies requested direct involvement and numerous projects were presented.
- The Ministry of Economic Development has launched in 2019. The 2019-2021 3-year plan of the National Electric System Research Fund. The resources allocated amount to €210 million. ENEA, CNR and RSE are the leading public research institutions involved. A call for proposals for the private sector is also foreseen on a co-funding basis before the end of 2020. The activities are aimed at innovating and improving the performance of the system in terms of economics, safety and the environment. The programme’s coverage ranges from system governance to R&D and deployment of renewable technologies, smart grids and end-use. It is financed through a specific component of the end-user electricity tariff.
- The European Commission has approved an investment of approximately €3.2 billion for joint research and innovation projects and first industrial production for the construction of new generation of batteries and storage systems. It is a project that jointly involves Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Sweden, and in which 17 European companies participate (some of them are Italian), as well as small and medium-sized enterprises and research bodies.
- In order to stimulate private spending on Research, Development and Technological Innovation to support the competitiveness of companies and encourage digital transition processes and within the circular economy and environmental sustainability, a new and significant tax credit regime for R&D projects has been set up in the framework of the Plan “Transizione 4.0” for the new industrial strategy launched by the Ministry of Economic Development.
Private sector engagement in 2019/20
- At the end of 2019, SNAM Spa (Italian gas Transmission System Operator) doubled the volume of the hydrogen blend, which was experimentally introduced into its natural gas transmission network in Contursi (Salerno), to 10%. This came just a few months after the 5% hydrogen blend was introduced into the network for the first time in Europe, directly supplying two companies, as part of an experiment carried out by SNAM in April 2019 in Contursi. The industries involved are the same as before: a pasta factory and a mineral water bottling company that both operate locally.
- ENEL Spa has started the Puglia Active Network (PAN), the €170 million project prepared in response to the European NER 300 call for improving performance and enabling innovative management of the electricity network in the Puglia region, with a high presence of plants for the production of energy from renewable sources. Thanks to Puglia Active Network, an intelligent network will cover the entire region, integrating the energy generated by renewable plants distributed throughout the territory and guaranteeing customers constant access to information on consumption trends.
- The Bolzano Hydrogen Valley is an example of excellence at European level: hydrogen is produced by electrolysis completely from renewable sources. To date, 5 hydrogen buses, 20 fuel cell cars have been added to the park in 2020, and some others are operating. 12 buses have been ordered and will circulate in the area soon.
Major activities in support of the Innovation Challenges in 2019/20
IC1: Italy as MI Innovation Challenge 1 co –lead, hosted on 16 January, 2020, a workshop in Rome in order to evaluate possible cooperation activities between IC1 and ISGAN – the International Energy Agency (IEA) Technology Collaboration Programme (TCP) for a Co-operative Programme on Smart Grids (ISGAN – International Smart Grids Action Network) launched in 2010 which currently has an Italian presidency. It is also an initiative of the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) and was formally established at CEM2 in Abu Dhabi, in 2011. ISGAN creates a strategic platform to support high-level government attention and action for the accelerated development and deployment of smarter, cleaner electricity grids around the world. The workshop gathered IC1 representatives, smart grids experts and industry leaders to address smart grids research and innovation.
IC8: following the Mission innovation “Hydrogen Valleys” workshop organized in Antwerp on March 2019, the Ministry of Economic Development set up The Hydrogen Table gathering the main national stakeholders in the value chain to encourage the development of hydrogen-related projects and allow Italian companies and research organisations to actively participate in the activities of IC8.
Other Mission Innovation related activity in 2019/20
The Smart Grids Innovation Accelerator (SGIA) is a cloud-based online platform to share policy, regulatory, technical and financial knowledge related to smart grid solutions. By centralizing this information into one database, IC1 seeks to share best practices, promote replication, enhance public-private collaboration and information sharing, and foresees upcoming enabling technologies and business models.
IC1 launched the first phase of the SGIA Platform at the 4th IC1 Deep-Dive Workshop in November 2018 (Rome) and presented on phase one outcomes at the 1st IC1-ISGAN joint event in May 2019 (Vancouver). As of March 2020, the SGIA is under development by a team of companies led by IBM. The platform will have advanced search features and will provide semantic links between search results (including results from external public databases) in order to help users analyze results quickly and comprehensively. The SGIA will also be supported by artificial intelligence algorithms to translate documents from different languages, speech-to-text functionality for video and audio files, and options to personalize users’ search results and notes. Italy is leading this initiative and has contributed to support phase one and phase two development of the project. Long-term maintenance of the SGIA platform is expected to be managed by one or more IC1 countries.
Through the development of this platform, IC1 members are strengthening cross-border networks: they are combining their expertise and experiences into a central repository and they are engaging stakeholders on opportunities to contribute to and benefit from the platform.
National plans and priorities for clean energy innovation
The achievement of the Energy and Climate Plan’s decarbonisation objectives requires significant commitment in terms of additional investments. The Italian National Energy and Climate Plan estimates that, between 2017 and 2030, more than €180 billion in cumulative additional investments will be needed if we want to reach the ambitious 2030 targets. The Covid-19 crisis has dramatically changed the landscape and we do expect that the tools proposed by the European Commission, in the context of the Recovery Plan, would be able to restore the level investment already planned in order to keep the expected ambition towards climate and energy objectives in particular:
- Investments should be directed towards technology solutions aimed at having impact both on energy supply and end-use.
- We aim to promote innovative solutions on energy efficiency, smart grids, hydrogen, batteries, raw materials, solar and marine energy.
- Smart grids will play a crucial role especially in promoting the integration of different sectors such as electricity, gas and water as well as in enhancing grid security and resilience.
- Research on Hydrogen is increasingly important in the context of the growth of renewables, offering a further chance to store the green energy produced, through the application of power-to-gas technological solutions.